SIR – The notion that politicians should not have to state where they stand on abortion and the 8th amendment, as recently suggested by Minister Simon Coveney is, to put it simply, not a good idea.
The law on abortion concerns the protection of the primary good, that of human life, without which no other human flourishing or potential can be achieved. The good of mothers, the good of vulnerable and dependent children, the nature of medicine as a healing practice, the ethos of the medical profession and that of our hospitals and health system are all at stake.
Law and public policy on the matter have definite implications for justice and the common good. For public representatives to rule out engagement on the subject with those they represent is not responsible governance.
The Constitutional Convention has been referred to as a possible forum for movement on removal or alteration of the 8th Amendment and the law on abortion and was mentioned by Minister Coveney in his recent ‘This Week’ interview. UCD lecturer Dr Eoin Carolan recently wrote in the ‘International Journal of Constitutional Law’ that the Irish experience in regard to the convention has been oversold, that there is a risk of bias and of manipulation by elite actors. The article looks behind what he calls ‘the hype’ surrounding the body.
Dr Carolan’s criticisms of the Constitutional Convention may not be entirely warranted. However, the attempt by Mr Coveney to block a straightforward and reasonable line of inquiry by reference instead to the role of this body raises significant questions for the electorate and the way in which our parliament and government operate.
It is those who hold seals of office who are responsible in law generally (as evidenced by the various Ministers and Secretaries Acts) and those who vote on our laws, such as senators and Dáil deputies, who are responsible morally for the laws which give shape and significance to the regulation of various human activities. The Constitutional Convention has no such standing or substance.
Citizens of our republic are entitled to speak freely on matters of public concern and to seek to discern the position of their representatives on the constituent parts of the common good. Of course, they, no more than others, are bound by rules of civility, politeness and reasonableness.
But those who are affected by the law, those who are weak, vulnerable and voiceless, would wish that our public representatives would state clearly where they stand on the matter of protecting the lives of mothers and their unborn children
Seán Mac Giollarnáth, O Carm,
56 Aungier Street,